Do you ever feel like you can’t live with trade shows – yet your business can’t live without them? Even though trade shows can be one of the best ways for a business to gain new customers and develop relationships with other companies, you may have come away from shows wondering if it was really worth the time and money. That’s why it’s key to make sure you have the right trade show goals, technology, and follow through so you can maximize your trade show ROI.

In this article, Part 1 of Trade Show Strategies to Maximize Your ROI in 2015, we’re going to look at an overview of the approach you can take to help ensure you get the most bang for your booth buck.

Your Trade Show Goals

When you’re planning future trade shows where you are going to have a booth to promote your business, there are a couple of key questions you need to ask yourself right away:

  1. Why am I going to exhibit at this trade show? and
  2. What are my business goals?

If your answer to the first question is “because we do this every year,” then you need to reexamine the situation and more fully define your goals.

It’s not enough to enter a trade show with the single goal of doing your best to connect with people and grow your customer list. To truly maximize your return on investment, you need to know specifically what your objectives are for a given trade show or conference, what you’re going to do to reach those goals, and how you are going to measure your level of success so you know if what you did worked.

So if you are haven’t sat down with your crew and fully defined the specific objectives for a given trade show, then now is the time. There are a lot of reasons to do a trade show, but knowing what’s most important to your business at this point in time will improve your focus, and therefore the outcome, during the planning phase, implementation, and in the evaluation of your success.

If you’ve never moved beyond the basic goal of “getting more customers,” here are some additional reasons your company might want to have a booth at a show:

  • gather leads
  • sell a product or service
  • build your list
  • interact with current customers
  • boost awareness of your company
  • increase your company’s credibility
  • improve the perception customers have of your company
  • launch a product or service
  • reach a new market
  • gain press
  • understand your competitors
  • support your industry
  • connect with suppliers
  • increase awareness of upcoming trends

Narrowing your objectives to a few primary ones will allow you to more fully achieve them by training your booth crew to stay on track, using your online presence to support those goals, and making sure interactions with potential customers move toward goal objectives.

Use the Right Technology for Your Goals

It’s certainly no secret that the right technology used properly is a necessary component for any trade show today. The thing about this that many businesses forget is that you need to select the technology that will help you reach your goals rather than selecting a tech tool simply because it’s available or new and cool – unless your business is about introducing new and cool technology, of course.

That’s why it’s imperative to first define your objectives and then to select the technology that will best help you reach them. With the number of affordable tech choices out there today, it can feel daunting.  So if you need to, take the time to speak with a technology rental expert such as Smart Source Rentals.

There is a lot of technology that will help you attract booth traffic and streamline the process of gathering leads, so if those feed into your objectives, then here are some tech tools for trade shows that you may want to consider:

  • Charging Stations –  potential customers will come into your booth to charge their devices
  • Computer Kiosks – will help you distribute your message, information, and services
  • Digital Document Libraries – creates an interactive experience for capturing leads and providing valuable information
  • Digital Signage – used properly, digital signage will help your message and info stand out
  • Lead Retrieval System – facilitates real-time tracking and helps convert leads to sales
  • Plasma Displays and Video Walls – these can be a way of making your booth stand out, and you can go for something simple such as a large screen to something as intriguing as providing a 3D customer experience with a new product
  • Directional Sound Speakers – trade shows can be noisy – proper sound helps to ensure that your message is heard

This is just a small sample of available technology.  It’s key that you do your research so you can select the best option for your business goals and tradeshow objectives.

Measuring Your Tradeshow Success

When you’ve set your objectives and selected the technology that will best support them, it’s also vital that you decide how you are going to measure your trade show success, and there are many ways to measure your success. Here are some suggested methods to consider:

  • the number of current customers you spoke with
  • the number of people who came through your booth or who interacted with your technology
  • sales numbers
  • the number of people who signed up for your list
  • the number of people who attended your presentation if your company gave one
  • the number of strategic partners you connected with
  • insights you gained
  • increased knowledge of competitors
  • the concrete feedback you were given
  • surveys that were completed

Many companies spend all their energy and efforts to get to a trade show but neglect to clearly define their goals, to prioritize lead follow up, or to have a rigorous method for knowing if that trade show was a success. Making sure you do those things will go a long way in helping you use trade shows as an effective method for getting your business where you want it to go.